The learning process is often more fluid than we perceive them to be. Be it content-based or context-based, both are vital approaches to learning.
The former is liken to classroom training today, which can be optimised via technology and micro-learning processes.
The latter, on the other hand, involves human interaction and experience-based development. This is where coaching is seen as an important part of the learning journey, where the coach serves as a learning partner and a confidant to a coachee.
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Coaching helps put things in context
Unlike content-based learning, coaching is very much context-driven. It starts from where you are currently at and where you want to get to, supporting you to achieve your personal goal and/or business outcome.
For example, you have just been promoted and want to lead effectively in the new role, or you are not exerting executive presence at the level you expected of yourself during board meetings. It could also be that you simply want to break an impasse in your business growth.
The thing is this: while we can mine Google and knowledge depositories for solutions to challenges in career or business, it is another thing to excavate personal values and beliefs that you never knew existed and linking them to your desires and intentions.
Sometimes, it takes a new perspective to see an existing connection. This is the transformative aspect of the learning journey. And this is the kind of learning experience in coaching that we aim to create with our clients at Leaderonomics.
Adult education expert Jack Mezirow asserts that transformative learning is learning that essentially change our foundational frames of reference.
These are like sets of fixed assumptions and expectations that manifest in habits of mind, meaning perspectives, and mindsets, leading to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective, and emotionally able to change (Mezirow, 2003, p. 58).
Mezirow concludes that such frames of reference are better than others because they are more likely to generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action.
According to a 2015 survey by Korn Ferry, the top development leadership themes for C-suite executives and other management levels were not very different, with ‘self-awareness’, ‘influence’ and ‘communication skills’ consistently identified as top focus areas. It is revealing that many of the themes are related to the way we perceive and approach matters or situations at hand.
Indeed, many leaders are frustrated by self-limiting beliefs but it cannot be addressed solely by interventions like content training, which does not challenge ‘perspective transformation’.
Building self-awareness – such as working to develop an understanding of the mental models we use, our beliefs and assumptions, of how we experience the world, how we interact with the organisation culture – fosters shifts in thinking that reveal fresh perspectives, and in turn informs business strategy and decisions.
At Leaderonomics, we believe that training programmes must correlate and be aligned to business strategy and outcomes.
Not every problem or issue can be resolved through coaching, though. Coaching is certainly not the magic bullet to every problem in the workplace. Some problems have deep psychological roots, and coaching might not be the best way to help.
Like all developmental inputs, coaching too has a particular context in which it can be useful and others in which it must not be attempted. Essentially the coach’s job is to challenge your thinking, goals, and stretch your willingness to grow.
A collaborative approach
Rather than operating prescription, the coach wants the coachee to take accountability for his or her own growth. Ultimately, the value of coaching resides in the mental tools the coachee learns that help him or her navigate toward success, both inside and outside of the business world.
So be prepared to put in the work and commit to the milestone goals because what you put in is what you get out at the end of the day.
In the coaching relationship, learning is very much a collaborative effort. It’s not set on consumption, but is really a social process of creation where it maximises your commitment to implement solutions.
This is in line with the current business climate where the competitive edge belongs to organisations embracing collaboration, innovation, adaptability and learning, just as increasingly organisations need employees who are emotionally intelligent, agile, are fast learners and able to thrive on increased responsibility.
Coaching has never been more relevant, providing a flexible and context-specific tool which matches the speed of change and complexity of today’s corporate environment.
We can all benefit from new engagement and fresh perspectives. It has been said that all learning is change but not all change is transformative.
Sometimes, transformation doesn’t come at all because we are content with incremental development. Simply put, there is no compelling case for change. But if ever there is such a thing as the ‘right time’ I think any time is a valid ‘right time’.
“Many reinventions make your life a book of stories instead of a textbook. The choice you make today will be in your biography tomorrow. Make interesting choices and you will have an interesting biography.”
Regardless of how old you are and at which career phase you’re at now, we can all benefit from a coaching relationship. It’s all about growing together on this leadership journey.
Keat Lim is the director for coaching and executive development under Leaderonomics Good Monday. To connect with him, email us at email@example.com. If you’ll like to accelerate your organisation’s high performers with effective coaching, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Host Nigesh Armon dives deep into the topic of gender by exploring the question of 'Why Don’t Men Talk About Real Struggles?' in the first episode of Talk To Me, a podcast series brought to you by Necole.
"Approach employees as true partners, involving them in continuous dialogues and processes about how to design and alter their roles, tasks and working relationships - which means that leaders need to make it safe enough for employees to speak openly of their experiences at work." - William Kahn